Introduction: Graduation Pop-Up Card

This project was inspired by the fancy pop-up cards in stores these days. Graduation was coming up fast, my funds were low, and I still had shop access, so I decided to make my own! My card is modeled after the dome at MIT, but the process can easily be adapted to other schools or occasions.

In short, I created a miniature waffle model from bristol paper. I created the 3D geometry in Rhino as reference, but manually created all the slits and surface decorations. The slit width is designed for bristol paper––a single-line cut may be sufficient for thinner papers.


  • Bristol Paper
  • Glue (for paper)
  • Exacto knife (very sharp is always best)
  • Ruler
  • Paper scoring device (mine is a pokey clay tool)
  • Clear tape
  • Masking tape
  • Laser cutter (or other cutting machine) –– optional

Step 1: Design & Cut Pieces

I contoured a simple 3D model and manually drew the facade and slot geometry. I chose to use Rhino for this process. Any other 3D modeling/drawing software should work equally as well.

My cut file is included here as a dxf (units in inches). Engrave the facade decoration first. Score the fold lines. Cut the pieces out.

Step 2: Score Tabs

The front side of the facade has the decoration, the back side of the facade is just blank paper.

Using the ruler and pokey clay tool, score both the front and back of the tabs on the facade piece. Bend the tabs to the front of the facade (see images). I recommend starting the fold with the ruler as a guide so the facade does not tear or bend in unexpected ways.

Step 3: Tape Outer Facade

Apply two small strips of clear tap to one end of the back side of the facade piece (first image). Align and connect the two ends of the facade with the tape.

Step 4: Assemble Model

Slide the waffle pieces with bottom-slots into the facade first. Then carefully slide in the remaining waffle pieces with top-slots.

Step 5: Trim Corners

With an Exacto knife, trim the bottom corner of the two exterior vertical tabs closest to the large base tabs (circled in image). This is necessary for the card to fold.

Step 6: Attach Model to Card

If you want elaborate cover decorations on your card, I would do it before attaching the waffle model.

I created an 6.25" by 3.5" card, scored down the middle to create a final card with folded dimensions of 3.125" by 3.5".

Lightly mark the card along the folded seam 7/8" from the top of the card. Apply glue to the underside of the tabs on the waffle model. Align the corner of the model with the tabs to the mark on the card. Make sure the diagonal of the model aligns to the seam of the card. Firmly press the glue tabs down and lightly secure with masking tape while drying.

Step 7: Personalize!

Add a personal message on the inside of the card. I tied mine together with a ribbon because the waffle model is actually quite thick (the card will not stay closed without it).

Share with your friends and enjoy!